The radio superhero, The Shadow, had the power to “cloud men’s minds.” But nothing clouds men’s minds like anything that has to do with Jews or Israel. This year’s variation on that theme is the idea that Israel is about to attack Iran. Such a claim repeatedly appears in the media. Some have criticized Israel for attacking Iran and turning the Middle East into a cauldron of turmoil (not as if the region needs any help in that department) despite the fact that it hasn’t happened.
On the surface, of course, there is apparent evidence for such a thesis. Israel has talked about attacking Iran and, objectively, one can make a case for such an operation. Yet any serious consideration of this scenario—based on actual research and real analysis rather than what the uninformed assemble in their own heads—is this: It isn’t going to happen.
Indeed, the main leak from the Israeli government, by an ex-intelligence official who hates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been that the Israeli government already decided not to attack Iran. He says that he worries this might change in the future but there’s no hint that this has happened or will happen. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has publicly denied plans for an imminent attack as have other senior government official.
Of course, one might joke that the fact that Israeli leaders talk about attacking Iran is the biggest proof that they aren’t about to do it. But Israel, like other countries, should be subject to rational analysis. Articles being written by others are being spun as saying Israel is going to attack when that’s not what they are saying. I stand by my analysis and before December 31 we will see who was right. I’m not at all worried about stating very clearly that Israel is not going to go to war with Iran.
So why are Israelis talking about a potential attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities? Because that’s a good way –indeed, the only way Israel has–to pressure Western countries to work harder on the issue, to increase sanction and diplomatic efforts. If one believes that somehow pushing Tehran into slowing down or stopping its nuclear weapons’ drive is the only alternative to war, that greatly concentrates policymakers’ minds. Personally, I don’t participate–consciously or as an instrument–in disinformation campaigns, even if they are for a good cause.
Why should Israel attack Iran now? Because one day Iran will have nuclear weapons that might be used to attack Israel.
Does Iran have such deliverable weapons now? No.
If Israel attacks Iran now does that mean Iran would never get nuclear weapons? No, it would merely postpone that outcome for at most a year or two more than it would take otherwise. And then it would ensure an all-out endless bloody war thereafter.
If Israel attacks Iranian nuclear installations would that ensure future peace between the two countries? Would it make it less likely that the Tehran regime uses such weapons to strike at Israel in future? No. On the contrary, it would have the exact opposite effect. Again, it would ensure direct warfare between the two countries and make Iran’s use of nuclear weapons against Israel 100 percent probable.
Why is this different from Israeli attacks on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear facilities? Because in those case a single strike by a small number of planes would be sufficient to destroy a single building. And the two regimes, precisely because of the strategic situation, would and could not respond. And if you believe Iran’s regime to be so totally irrational then factor that point into how it would respond to a direct attack like that.
If Israel attacks Iran would it have backing from anyone else in the world? No, in fact the United States strongly opposes such an operation. Iranian retaliation against oil shipping and terrorist attacks would lead (not overly brave and already appeasement-oriented) Western governments to blame Israel, not Iran. Launching such an attack would ensure a level of international isolation for Israel far higher than what exists today.
Would such an attack by Israel be likely to succeed even in doing maximum damage to Iranian facilities? No, a great deal could go wrong, especially against multiple hardened targets at the planes’ maximum range. Planes could get lost or crash or have to turn back. Planes arriving over the targets could miss, or accidentally drop their bombs on civilians, or simply not do much damage. Many targets would remain unscathed.
Additional waves of attack would be needed in a situation where Iran would be better prepared to shoot down the planes. And the second wave would face huge Western opposition. But it would be too late either way since Israel would now be in a full war with Iran.
So given all of these factors why should Israel possibly attack Iran? It is an absurd idea.Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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